What Is Nutritional Yeast and Does It Really Taste Like Cheese?

I get yeast; I am a professional Great British Bake Off expert, after all. But nutritional yeast? That frightens and confuses me! Perhaps it’s time to research an article so that I can sleep better at night without the dark specter of nutritional yeast haunting my dreams. Let’s dive into that common question, what’s nutritional yeast?

What is nutritional yeast?

Nutritional yeast is very similar to the kind of yeast used to make breads, except it is deceased. It has tossed off this mortal coil. It is an ex-yeast. As a single cell fungus, live yeast gobbles up carbs and farts out carbon dioxide; the result is the rising and air bubbles in bread. The dead nutritional yeast, now being long passed, won’t do its yeast-y things. 

How is nutritional yeast made?

Nutritional yeast starts out as alive yeast that is left to grow in a high-sugar environment. After cultivating, the yeast is murdered with heat. That’s right, and you’re an accomplice in this!

After the murder, they (the murderers) clean up the crime scene by washing, drying, crumbling, and packaging the dead yeast carcasses. The result is a yellow-colored powder which is actually millions and millions of dead yeast cells. Think about that the next time you use it!

What does nutritional yeast taste like?

The flavor has been described as nutty and cheesy. This kind of makes sense, since it is a fungi, and I’ve had mushrooms that can be described in both those ways. Knowing dead nutritional yeast actually tastes good helps lessen the blow of being an accomplice in making the yeast bereft of life.

What is nutritional yeast used for?

Since nutritional yeast has gone to meet its maker, it cannot be used for breadmaking. But its cheesiness actually makes it a fine addition to salty, crunchy snacks like popcorn seasoning. It is also a good replacement for flour or cornstarch when it comes to thickening gravy, soup, and stew. Vegans love the stuff because it acts as the perfect replacement for dairy in vegan cheese.

Is nutritional yeast gluten free?

Yes, nutritional yeast is free from gluten. It is also free from all its metabolic processes. It’s bleedin’ demised!

Is brewer’s yeast the same as nutritional yeast?

Not exactly. Brewer’s yeast is grown on malted barley as opposed to in a high sugar environment and often tastes more bitter than nutritional yeast. Commercially available brewer’s yeast is often “de-bittered” in order to make it more palatable.

One thing both these yeasts have in common: They’ve both run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. THEY’RE DEAD, YOU GET IT?!

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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